A Piece of Florida Heaven

Little Blue Heron, White Ibis

Little Blue Heron, White Ibis

There is a small island off the Gulf coast of Florida that has a  refuge known for its rich expanse of wildlife.


It is a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Florida called Ding Darling.


Roseate Spoonbill, Ding Darling

Roseate Spoonbill, Ding Darling

With 5,200 acres of protected wilderness, there are many species of mammals and reptiles including endangered and threatened species.


On a bird migration route and in a subtropical climate, it also boasts 245 bird species.


Waders, Ding Darling Wildlife Drive

Waders and Mangrove, Ding Darling

The more habitats a place has, the more variety of wildlife exist.  Here there are numerous habitats.


This refuge has the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the U.S.


Mangroves are trees that live in salt water and exist only in tropical and sub-tropical locations.  Relatively rare in the U.S., there are numerous groves here, and three different species.


Other habitats at Ding Darling include freshwater marsh and ponds, tidal mud flats, hardwood forest, and seagrass beds.  Each habitat hosts different species.


White Ibis, Ding Darling

White Ibis, Ding Darling

Florida is a popular place for Americans to enjoy warm weather year round, and in 1945 this acreage was almost sold to developers.


Fortunately, an environmental hero,  Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, convinced President Truman to sign an Executive Order creating the refuge, thereby preventing the sale.


Great Blue Heron, Ding Darling

Great Blue Heron, Ding Darling

More info:  J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR


The refuge has trails and boardwalks, a four-mile  wildlife drive, and many wildlife viewing areas.


In addition to the extensive refuge, there is literally another side to Sanibel Island.


As a barrier island, it extends several miles into the Gulf of Mexico, and has a shelf of white sand beaches.


Snowy Egret, Sanibel Island, Florida

Snowy Egret, Sanibel Island, Florida

An easy uncrowded walk along the beach always produced a new and beautiful sight.  Leaping dolphins, shells and mollusks, egrets everywhere.


Birds and mammals wherever you look…it is a quiet piece of heaven.


Photo credit: Athena Alexander

Essential book if you go:  Living Sanibel by Charles Sobczak

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Pen Shell, Sanibel Island, Florida

Pen Shell, Sanibel Island, Florida

Location in Lee County, Florida

Sanibel Island, FL on far left. Courtesy Wikipedia


62 thoughts on “A Piece of Florida Heaven

  1. Thank goodness it wasn’t sold for developers….the last thing southern Florida needs, or for that matter anywhere else:) Thank you for another very informative post. Have a lovely Monday and week ahead…janet:)

    • Yes, that was a happy nugget to come upon in my research for this post. I’m glad you enjoyed the visit to southern Florida today, Janet. I hope you, too, have a lovely day and happy and productive week ahead. My thanks for your visit, as always, and appreciation.

  2. Keep it wild and they will come. Everyone should take the time to explore these precious spaces with binoculars and senses so the next generations can appreciate how diverse our world really is. The Gulf Coast is a mecca for birders!! Hope you’re well, Jet. ~ Shannon

    • The Gulf Coast is lovely for spotting birds, I agree Shannon. But sometimes there’s too many birders for my liking, in the really good places…I like the quiet so much. But Sanibel Island wasn’t overcrowded, at least in Feb. when we were there. So glad you enjoyed the post today, Shannon. And I was delighted to see you here today, will pop on over to DirtNKids to see what you’re up to. My thanks and best wishes to you~~

      • I know what you mean about bumping butts with other birders. We also prefer the habitats where few un-feathered two-leggers skulk. You’re not missing anything at the blog; I’m still no where near ready to write for the world. Life is, well…LIFE!!

      • Thanks Shannon. I did stop by and will await the day when you return. I really enjoy your posts, but I sure appreciate the time it takes when you could instead be outside playing. And I’m sure it’s been busy with your kids and school and teachings. My best to you~~

  3. 5,200 acres of protected wilderness! Happy to read about these beautiful birds have a place to enjoy.
    A piece of heaven, indeed! Thank you for sharing, Jet. 🙂

    • That’s a lot of acreage for birds and mammals, especially in warm and watery places where land developing filled in the swamps decades ago. I’m happy you enjoyed the Florida post today, Amy — and appreciate your visit.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Alok. It is amazing how many people in this world have paved the way for later generations like us to enjoy the wilderness. It was a pleasure to share it with you.

  4. Jet, thank you for this post! I have never been to Florida except Ft Lauderdale. I would love to visit Sanibel Island to enjoy sketching and photographing bird wildlife that we do not see in the PNW. Hopefully the weather is pleasant in the early spring of 2017.

  5. Ding Darling would make a great name for a character. So would Roseate -Spoonbill. It would be fun to write a mystery in which all the characters are named after birds! Thanks for my morning smile ; )

    • How lovely to have a writer comment on this funny refuge name. I think if I was the head of the refuge I would have named it something a little more wilderness-inspired than cartoonish, but then I’m a writer and I have plenty of names to dole out. I laughed at your idea of naming characters after birds. Birders would love it, that’s for sure. My thanks for your fun comment and visit today~~

  6. A darling place, a wonderful post! I’m not one for weather that’s too warm, or for sharing a place with too many people, but Ding Darling in winter could tempt me. Sounds irresistible put like that – tempted by Ding Darling. Who wouldn’t be? Loved learning about this bird paradise, and Athena’s photographs were amazing once again!

    • I enjoyed your play on words, pc. An irresistible name, I know. Florida in winter can be a bit popular, but just hanging out on the island is really great. You wouldn’t believe the seashells. Thanks so much, my friend.

  7. Enjoyable post! We visited DD years ago…Bill attracted by the birds and me by the “ding-darling” name. It takes all kinds, yes? It was just lovely.

  8. Wonderful post! This place is one that I still have to visit here on the Gulf coast, probably about 2.5 h drive south from us. It looks much like some of the (much smaller) barrier islands we have here and the wildlife seems to be abundant. Great pictures of all the birds 🙂

    • I think you have a pretty wonderful piece of Florida heaven where you live, Tiny; but yes, the wildlife is abundant. I always enjoy your photos and adventures on the salt marsh~~

  9. Thank goodness for President Trumen preventing greedy contractors to gobble up this Paradise. What a beautiful place, Jet, and I can only imagine what it must be like to wander here. Gorgeous pictures and I really enjoyed learning about this Refuge, a place I did not know about. Thank you so much!! ❤

    • A delight to have you visit Sanibel Island with me, Amy. We are so lucky to have had wildlife protectors here in the US for centuries now. Thanks for your kind and warm comment.

    • No, we explored Ding Darling trails on foot and the auto tour via our rental car. But I just looked it up and there’s a company that does offer water cruises. Thanks so much, Inger — great to visit with you.

  10. How nice to see your post from our “neck of the woods”, even though I actually live on the other coast. Ding Darling on Sanibel Island is a place I visited a few times. Glad to see you saw so many of our beautiful friends there. Did you happen to also visit the Bailey Tract, a “wilder” slightly more remote, swamp/marsh area right nearby?

    • Great to know you have visited DD, even as a Fla. resident, BJ. One of our goals while down there was to see manatees, and since it was winter and they’re not in DD then, we went to Manatee Park near Ft. Myers and had that thrill. Also visited Corkscrew Swamp east of Naples, a pure joy. But no, we didn’t get to Bailey Tract. It sounds wonderful (always going for the “more remote” places), so if we ever return, this is valuable info. What a treat to converse with a Fla. resident about it, thanks so very much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s